The great convergence

Breaking down the walls between IT and Facilities doesn’t just make good business sense, it’s an important growth strategy

Converging IT teams and facilities
  • Rapid IoT adoption has made facilities management a more strategic business function
  • Facilities and IT teams need to collaborate on a number of business‑critical tasks
  • Unified software platforms can help manage new workflows between the two groups

It’s an age‑old story: IT and facilities management teams don’t talk to each other. In many companies, these two groups live on opposite sides of a soundproof wall.

Facilities and IT don’t just work in separate areas of the building—they inhabit separate worlds, speak different languages, and have contrasting personalities. In my experience, facilities managers tend to be strong‑willed and independent. They proudly think of the buildings and assets under their care as their facilities.

IT people also take tremendous pride in their work, with an inclination towards being more analytical in their thinking. Now, more than ever, this separation must end. There’s a fundamental transformation underway in industry that’s creating significant overlap between the two functions.

Facilities and IT are being asked to collaborate every day on business‑critical tasks such as onboarding and offboarding employees, opening new buildings, asset management, event tracking, account provisioning, and data management. Smart companies understand that getting Facilities and IT to work together doesn’t just make business sense. It’s becoming a competitive advantage and an important growth strategy.

Technology is playing a key role in this convergence. More companies are using software platforms to streamline workplace systems and integrate core functions such as real estate portfolio and project management, maintenance planning, and sustainability.

An important feature of these workplace management systems is to integrate facilities and space management into every aspect of the enterprise. In some sense, virtually every business these days is a facilities company—whether they realize it or not.

Take healthcare. In a hospital or clinic, you can no longer separate a respirator from the physical environment in which it exists. Both are absolutely vital for patient care and are measured and evaluated in terms of risk. It’s essential that care providers get both right.

A large hospital might house more than $1 billion worth of equipment, including 50,000 devices, with a facilities team of about 40 people maintaining it all. Five years ago, the facilities people generally operated on an island. Rarely did they talk to IT and IT never talked to them.

Now they work together because they must. A typical operating room in a modern hospital is a technological wonder. There are dozens of monitors and electronic devices fed by dedicated power supplies in the walls. Sensors are everywhere, forming a network of IoT devices that keeps tabs on patients, the equipment and the environment. In this setting, Facilities, IT and clinical engineering teams must work together, and not just for the sake of efficiency. Collaboration can literally be a matter of life or death.

Now consider a completely different business environment—retail convenience stores. A typical regional convenience store chain with 350 outlets can sell more than $1 billion worth of coffee annually, at gross margins of more than 90 percent. That means the coffee machines are strategic to the business.

That’s why many of these machines are connected devices that run on an underlying software platform, so that if something goes wrong, it’s much easier to detect and fix. Making sure coffee machines are always up and running has become a mission‑critical task—one that Facilities plays a vital role in supporting.

Technology is critical to a successful outcome. Your organization must be armed with a flexible, cloud‑based platform that automates workflows across teams. In the past, Facilities and IT teams might have used dozens of disparate apps, manual processes, spreadsheets, and legacy systems to get their daily work done. By getting everyone on the same platform, Facilities and IT can track assets, relocate staff, manage new buildings, and onboard and offboard employees much more efficiently.

It’s an exciting time for Facilities and IT, two departments at the forefront of digital transformation. To reap the benefits of emerging technologies, they must now work side by side.

Convergence 101

Breaking down the walls between Facilities and IT isn’t easy, and it doesn’t happen overnight. Here’s a roadmap to align these two critical business functions.

The first step is to empower your functional leadership teams with the resources needed to foster more collaboration between IT and Facilities. A small, focused cross‑functional leadership team can enable faster and more informed decision‑making and build permanent bridges across the two organizations.

The cross‑functional team should outline a unified vision for the departments. The analysis should examine the internal infrastructure, systems, and platforms for which each department is responsible, and determine where duties overlap. The strategy should include clear and attainable goals that can be reached over three, six, and 12 months.